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Winter vacation in Saint Maarten in January of 2018.

by Leonid Sakharov

Winter 2018 vacation at St. Maarten is described and videos of experience are included.

We, I and my wife, were at St. Maarten two times before with for half a day during two separate cruises. There are videos taken then: In January 2017 with Norwegian Breakaway:

and in December 2012 with Norwegian Gem:

Planning winter vacation is very exciting and complex task. Especially tricky problem when you want to escape from cold Boston to warm and comfortable beach for once and not to ruin you finances for second. There is always Miami Beach with relatively cheap air tickets, sort of normal hotel prices although heading up last years, nice warm weather and civilized city with tons of affordable entertainment. We were in Miami several winters already and looking for something new this time. Other possibility we already explored several times is cruise trip. The most negative part of cruise from New York is waste of about four precious vacation days of warms on the way to Caribbean and back. Any ship itself no matter how big it is can be explored in matter of days, losing element of surprise and create subconscious feeling of confinement.

All cruise ships are more or less the same. The only difference is people in entertainment team. Cruise director is devoted keep passengers in cheer mood or doesn’t care about because there is no escape from ship. I remember only one cruise when everything was better than expected – very first time with Norwegian Gem from NY to Bahamas in 2011. Norwegian Cruise Company was private then and working up reputation before public offering. Since then every encounters with them was disappointment. Norwegian looks like monopolize trips from New York so option to take cruise becomes diminished in favorability. An idea to fly to Mexican Rivera like Cancun or Playa del Carmen was seriously explored. Plus for this variant is better weather in Mexico at winter compare to Miami (marginally) but noticeable. We were with cruise in Cozumel making trip to Tulum at Winter of 2016 round-trip cruise from Fort Lauderdale on Celebrity Conciliation:

Mexico Rivera made nice impression from weather point of view. Negative points are coming from comparable much higher than to Miami prices of air flights and feeling that only at least four stars hotels can provide the same level of safety and comfort as three stars in Miami. And entertainment part is terra incognito at all. So Mexico is a little warmer but more expensive. Hmm.

This year because of hurricane Irma in September of 2017 the option of Saint Maarten becomes more competitive. Being there before we can confess that weather in St. Maarten is close to perfect to our point of view. To describe it best – most comfortable summer day in New England day by day all winter long. Flight price there was about twice higher compare to Miami but manageable in combination with twice cheaper rent of studio at Mont Vernon at French side of Saint Martin (name of French part of this two nation island with decorative border). Videos and reports of distraction on web were sort of incomplete but fact that cruise ships came back to Island brought us to conclusion that idea that Saint Maarten out of tourist business is definitely exaggerated. We decided to take a risk and go to Saint Maarten. It will be our first fully Caribbean vacation.

The road to Saint Maarten from Boston was exhausting. We optimized getting there by price and were able to save couple hundred bucks by flying from New York at morning after getting to JFK on last night bus from Boston. Prices of morning fly from Boston to New York are very expensive and to wake up in the middle of night is not too better than try to sleep in bus. And couple hundreds is not a crumbs no matter what crazy Nancy can think. It was about 20 hour trip from door to door. As experienced vacationer I can say to you that such hardship is worst to do only on the way to relaxation. Don’t do it returning not to waste all positive effect. Way back for us was twice shorter and really pleasant with Delta provided free new movies so time pasted for instant.

We reserve renting car in advance. Renting car there is reasonable cheap especially if doing this paying by correct credit card that covers damage insurance. I don’t want to be more specific about it because everybody should rely not on article like mine but doing your own home work. You need to call to credit card insurance department and ask them about exact conditions of user agreement. They can send you e-mail with explanation of relevant benefits that better to have during renting.

The Island of Saint Maarten is not too big for walking everywhere but completely unprepared for this from pedestrian safety point of view. Even mile long walk to supermarket could cost. We saw some hitchhikers and envy their youth and bravery. Forget it. Better rent a car if want go anywhere on island. Taxi is not too expensive as well and from point of view of money maybe taking taxi all the time is practically equivalent to renting but convenience not to bother to find one is so advantageous that renting car is much better choice. Signs of hurricane destruction are everywhere. Mostly it is about roofs of buildings are gone completely or partially. But when you will watch the video:
there will be not too much cadres of ruins of past civilization. The Island in most parts is back to normal life. Roads are clean to driving. If there will be any bothering issues for who is from Boston it will be different road etiquette. It is less exceedingly secure. If driver can rush into one line traffic it will happen. If pedestrian want to cross road he will and can stop all cars if need to chat with driver friend. Not too big deal if to understand that from any point in Island you can reach any destination in about half an hour. No need to speed out there is no such thing as road rage.

Anyway. Reminiscent from Irma are everywhere. The most damaged by Hurricane Irma part of Saint Maarten is Orient Beach where we rent a studio. Resident buildings of Orient Club are completely destroyed. At north part of the beach Community of Mont Vernon lost roofs but mostly stayed livable. Our studio had formally all components of civilized comfort except some interruptions in internet, TV, air conditioning and pool at property was not functioning. And some dangerous insects. It is a separate story to tell or not.

All business at the Orient Beach shore including lovely restaurants and stores are wiped out as if never existed. The Orient Club as accommodating hotel is no more but the idea of natural sunbathing itself is alive and well. The only crowed part of beach is near small restaurant of Orient Club. The row of umbrellas and beach couches are provided on regular base from ten to four. It is also most wave protected, sandy and fish rich scuba diving part of the Orient Beach and probably of the whole Island. In some sense it is also a model for tolerance where naturists and shy people coexist without any tension in paradise like environment.

Scuba diving at St. Maarten is tricky because there is a lot of waving in most beaches and difficult access from rocky shore. At Baie Rouge beach I was hit in leg by stone when coming out from relatively not too wavy ocean. A combination of ocean shore waves and beach with stones has happened to be much more dangerous than expected even for experienced person like me. Do choose Orient Beach to swim if in Saint Maarten my best advice.

After many attempts to see impressive color fishes I found the best place is near restaurant at south part of Orient Beach Club. It looks like fish is lured there. And one time I saw person feeding school of yellow ones. South part of Orient beach is most protected from waves as well. A big fish there was sort of scary creature. If one will be careful the eel at the bottom can be noticed in video at 2:58 – 3.04 min. But comparable with Magen Beach in St. Thomas the fish watching in St Maarten is less impressive. The best reason to do scuba there is to spend more time in the ocean.

There are many beaches at St. Maarten according to maps and reviews. Actually when we are judging beach from point of view of value for relaxation, ability to comfort swim and sunbathing it looks like only few of them are really perfect. Orient Beach is for one. In some sense Phillipsburg and Maho Beach near SXM are good although lesser class. There are also few secluded beaches mentioned as worth to explore. One of them is Little Cayes that is on the most north of the Island of St. Maarten. The road there is sort of difficult was told in review we read before deciding to attempt. It is indeed. Only for really in shape persons this above ocean cliff patch can be allowed to try. Just my advice – see my video and don’t do it yourself. The efforts don’t worth the beach itself. There is not comfortable entrance to ocean to swim. Too many waves and some coral stones near shore line make the excise a risky proposition. Nevertheless, I am personally do not regret going there – the video was shot, tons of adrenaline produced, it was not dull morning at all.

What we did not find in Saint Maarten (not find is exact word choice, maybe there are some but hidden from us) is good quality night clubs with disco dancing. Actually in spite we love to dance there were almost no occasions to do it. I was asking native people there about parting – not for tourists, the most honest answer was. You can find good casinos here. The best is Princess Casino. There are several adult clubs and Platinum Room is good enough. But for active night that not just eating and drinking there is close to nothing compare to Miami.

All at all the vacation in St. Maarten was good experience. Especially it was good for relaxation and mental state. Ocean has special serene effect to bring back delusion of harmony with himself for some time ahead. It is what winter vacation for.

Feb. 7, 2018; 10:25 EST

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